This values study is based on a photo I took at a local nature preserve over the summer. It’s a place that I’d love to go back to and paint on location, now that the weather is cooling off. When I was there scouting the preserve as a potential plein air spot, the evening rain storm was clearing off and the sunlight was coming back out. The clouds were this great purple-grey color and where the sun struck the edges it was yellow. And the trees had this interesting acidic-green quality that happens in some post-rain lighting situations that I just love.
Since the tree masses were very similar in value, I used color temperature to distinguish the different planes as they go back into the distance. I think that part is working well, but my value is too light on the sunlight parts of the main tree which introduced more contrast in that shape than I wanted. I first noticed there was an issue after I put the sky in and saw that the contrast between the leaves and the sky wasn’t strong enough. That should have been a clue to take a closer look and make adjustments.
The shape of the main tree gave me a lot of trouble, and I really don’t like how it turned out because the smaller shapes that radiate out from the main part are too similar and static. They don’t capture the gesture and character of the tree which I really like in the reference. The shapes in the notan were much better. I may have had more luck blocking in the whole tree as one dark mass, and going back later to add the sunlit colors. This would have allowed me to concentrate on the shapes only, worrying about the values and details later.
For the color palette, I experimented with a new trio:
- green gold
- quinacridone violet
- ultramarine blue
It worked well for achieving color harmony, but was definitely a combination that forced me to think about warm/cool relationships because I couldn’t mix the colors in the reference photo. Good for stretching my color mixing skills, and a reminder to test out a small amount of the colors before squeezing out a big blob!